© 2013 Ashley Landis hsteamtennis_1106spo

UIL Team Tennis

On Monday and Tuesday I covered the UIL team tennis state championship tournament for 1st Photo Texas/UIL and the Dallas Morning News.

Team Tennis is usually a fairly easy tournament to cover.  It’s only two short-ish days, all in one location, and it’s pretty easy to get around and shoot as much action as I need.

I had to be there on Monday morning to take the official team photos before the tournament, so I drove to College Station on Sunday evening and got up early the next morning.  Rain was in the forecast, but it wasn’t falling, so everything started as planned.

The 5A semi-finals were up first, and they played all morning.

Before the last few matches finished up, it started to rain.  The tournament was delayed for a few hours, and the rest of the 5A semis were moved to an indoor facility.  The 4A semis hadn’t started yet, so I stuck around, hoping to shoot some of that.

Rain kept falling and it was getting late in the day, so UIL officials delayed the 4A semis until the morning and split them between two local high schools.  At the same time, the 5A finals were supposed to be played at Texas A&M, the original tournament facility.  That wasn’t supposed to happen, but the schools weren’t far away, so I could get a little of both.

I showed up to Bryan High School before the 8:30 a.m. start time and it was still raining.  I found out there was a two hour delay, but it didn’t seem like it would matter much.  The courts were wet and some Bryan High School students were trying to clear the water.

After taking a couple of shots, I headed over to Texas A&M to see if the 5A finals started, but of course, they were undergoing the same rain delay.

A decision was made to move the 5A finals to an indoor facility in Bryan, and that they would start at 10:30 a.m.  The problem was that the facility only had three courts.  That means instead of a 3-4 hour tournament, it would be more like 8-12 hours.

The 4A semis were moved to a tennis center in Walden, TX, which is about an hour and a half from the facility in Bryan, and they were supposed to start at noon.

Not only were these matches not supposed to happen at the same time, they weren’t supposed to be an hour and half away from each other.

I hadn’t gotten any 4A action, so I assessed the situation with UIL, then headed over to Walden.  When I arrived, they were just finishing up yet another rain delay, but action began again shortly.

About an hour passed and rain began to fall again, causing even more delays.  I sat down to transmit some photos, then drove back to Bryan in the pouring rain.

The 5A finals were still going when I returned around 5:30 or so, but it was almost dark by then.  The “indoor” facility was really just a pavilion that had tarping covering the outer edges of the courts, and didn’t have very much light, especially after the sun went down.

I did the best I could with action.  On the outdoor courts I used my 200-400mm f4 lens, but it was far too dark for that, so I used my 70-200mm f2.8 lens instead and tried to get a little closer.

Even at ISO H0.7, I had to slow my shutter to 1/500 sec.

I stayed until New Braunfels won the 5A state title and shot the medal/trophy ceremony.

Then I drove two hours home, walked in the door and laid on the floor.  It was midnight and I was exhausted.

The 4A semis in Walden didn’t end up finishing until around 10 p.m. on Tuesday and the 4A finals were moved to 1 p.m. on Wednesday at Baylor University.  I didn’t have to drive up to Waco, thank goodness, but I heard that the rain finally stopped and the tournament was completed on Wednesday afternoon.

As tired and stressed as I was, there were two people who far exceeded my struggles.  UIL Assistant Athletic Director Darryl Beasley and UIL’s Rebecca Quinlan had to reschedule, re-plan and reorganize this tournament at least 5 times in 24-hours.  They had to deal venue changes, parking, finding extra officials and trainers, feeding employees and volunteers, communicating plan changes, finding room in the budget for all of this and still managed to keep all of the athletes and coaches happy.  They did an amazing job in a tough situation and kept their cool.  It’s one of the many reasons I love working with UIL!

Click here to view more photos on the Dallas Morning News web site.


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